An opportunity to think about the origins of humanity and the earth, by the shores of lake Biwa.

First held in 2001, and in every third year until the fourth edition, BIWAKO BIENNALE is celebrating its 10th edition this year. The last edition in 2020 faced great uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented international artists from traveling to Japan, presenting us with the unprecedented challenge of having their artworks transported and installed by our staff only. We were also unable to host student interns from art colleges in France, who usually spend three months with us. I really missed working with them. Another source of worry was how much criticism we would face for holding the event amid the pandemic, but we received no complaints at all. In fact, many expressed gratitude that the festival took place in spite of the situation, which brought me great pleasure. In retrospect, with so many unprecedented challenges, the last edition was an unforgettable event.

Contrary to my optimistic expectation that there would be no cause of concern for holding the event in 2022, the pandemic persists with emerging variants, continuing to affect people around the world. And now we are witnessing another tragedy, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Who could have imagined this kind of thing would happen in the 21st century, after we had avoided nuclear war during the Cold War, and after the two World Wars?

As I wrote before, one of the reasons I started BIWAKO BIENNALE is to express my desire that human beings, who have fought each other since the beginning of time, overcome karma and finally stop killing each other. My vague hopes that this century would usher in a new warless era were cruelly dashed.

All wars between nations for their own profits disrupt citizens’ lives and subject them to cruelty. Wars inflict great suffering on people born and living where they happen, regardless of whether it is in the victor’s land or the loser’s. But to begin with, does the Earth belong to human beings? We humans have created national borders at will, but do they actually exist on the Earth? The Earth is the invaluable mother who gives birth to and nurtures animals, plants, as well as humans. How can the human race cause harm to this uniquely beautiful planet? The origin of everything, including the Earth, can be traced all the way back to the birth of the Milky Way Galaxy. This tells us that all things, though seemingly separate and distinct from one another, share a common origin.

Artists seem to understand that more than others. Creativity is a unique and thus valuable characteristic of the human race. No other species has it. Artists can awaken the soul residing deep inside the heart of each and every one of us. Tears in the eyes of people who are touched by beautiful music and art know no national borders. Humans now possess nuclear arms that pose an existential threat to our planet. But if we are allowed to continue to live with the Earth, I believe that art, though it may seem powerless, plays a significant role for us.

“ORIGIN”, the theme for this edition had been determined before the war broke out. I hope this theme will give us an opportunity to think about the origin of humans and the origin of Mother Earth. I am also returning to my original intention of starting BIWAKO BIENNALE while reaffirming the determination to provide a ray of hope in the face of repeated human folly. We look forward to seeing your smile by Lake Biwa this fall.

General Director Yoko Nakata

Director Profile


Born in Kyoto and raised in Otsu (Shiga). In 1980, she graduated from Kansai University (Faculty of Letters, Aesthetics Department) and started studying in New York. Between 1985 and 1995, she lived and worked in Manila, before moving to France. While feeling concerned about the degradation of her hometown’s rich culture and history, she was impressed by the way European cities make the most of their old townscapes, preserving traditional culture and integrating the new. In 2000, she founded NPO Energyfield, and with her international experience in art, she created the BIWAKO BIENNALE. In 2017, she moved back to Japan. Humans can sometimes be cruel and selfish. Still, she believes that the most beautiful qualities of these humans are creativity and curiosity, and leads an active life based on that belief.